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#1148911 - 07/19/07 04:25 PM Greetings....Writing SATB?
GlennC Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/02/07
Posts: 5
Loc: Upstate NY
Greetings all,

This is my first post on this forum, I've been reading and posting a bit on the Teacher's and the Tuner/Technician's Forums. As chance would have it, I pursue both of those areas professionally. I won't bore you with my c.v., suffice it to say I'm a lifelong musician (call it 45 years), a tuner/tech since 1983, and have "composed" in several genres off and on for years.

Today I did my first writing for SATB. A short piece for my church group (A Kyrie, since you ask). It was kinda fun. Some of the parts came right out of my head ready to go (S,B)others took a bit more work. My theory background isn't very strong, so I pretty much just trusted my ear to avoid anything too horrid. (The "T" in my group will hate my guts, but the part works and that's what he gets for being a tenor.)

I'm sure there are probably "rules" for writing four-part, but I'm (blissfully?) ignorant. I did call my dad (an Eastman alum)for a bit of advice. He said to avoid parallel fourths. OK, what else should I know? Any good books or online resources?

Again, my greetings to all. Any advice is sincerely appreciated.

Regards,

Glenn

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#1148912 - 07/19/07 04:43 PM Re: Greetings....Writing SATB?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
4-part writing rules can be found in any books teaching composition techniques. but you can find it on internet as well. look at what i found:

http://www.listeningarts.com/music/general_theory/4-part%20writing%20rules.htm

http://library.thinkquest.org/16020/data/eng/text/education/theory/connection.html

http://davesmey.com/theory/partwritingrules.pdf

etc.

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#1148913 - 07/19/07 05:56 PM Re: Greetings....Writing SATB?
superlocrian Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/30/07
Posts: 69
Loc: Dallas, TX
Hey Glenn C. The resources listed above seem pretty good. Just remember that the rules are to get the music to a certain style. For example, if you are wanting to do a Barbershop arrangement, it's all about the parallelisms. If you are doing a Kyrie and other music of that sort, yes your music will probably sound harmonically stronger to follow the "rules." Remember also that the rules for parallelisms are there to keep each voice independent. For example, two voices moving in parallel 5ths or octaves lose their independence and begin to meld into one, but of course as a long time Piano tuner/composer you know that all too well.

In general, if you move the bass primarily contrary to the sop, create smooth part-writing in the top three parts and keep everyone in their range it will be fine. Also, don't use 6/4 chords without a reason, and don't write a bass line that skips in to one. For inverted chords, the bass in general needs to be approached and left by step. If you are writing contrary motion between the bass and sop, you will not have to worry about parallelisms.

Good luck!

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#1148914 - 07/20/07 04:53 AM Re: Greetings....Writing SATB?
James McFadyen Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/23/06
Posts: 103
Loc: Manchester UK
May I suggest a listen to 'Desert Music' by Steve Reich and it blow those silly 'rules' right out of the water!

My advice is take those rules and rip them up. Think more about createing a new sound but combining complex harmonies along with indifferent voice leadings.

Things like avoiding parallel fifths, fourths and octaves are so old fashioned that its unreal.

Seriously, 'Desert Music' by Steve Reich - it will change what you think you know is correct about vocal writing!
_________________________
James McFadyen
Black & White Editions (c/o Devilish Publishing)
NEW PIANO MUSIC DEALS - http://www.blackandwhiteeditions.com/

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#1148915 - 07/20/07 05:42 AM Re: Greetings....Writing SATB?
Ted2 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/04/02
Posts: 790
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
I don't know anything about vocal writing, James, but as far as piano music goes you're obviously a man after my own heart !
_________________________
"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" - Aleister Crowley

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#1148916 - 07/20/07 11:02 AM Re: Greetings....Writing SATB?
Harmosis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/15/07
Posts: 308
Loc: California
I agree with the suggestion to listen to Steve Reich's The Desert Music, as well as Lassus' motets, and Bach's chorales, Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir, and anything else you can think of, to hear the contrast between the styles. Steve Reich certainly does not[/b] "blow those silly 'rules' right out of the water," but he does show his particular style.

Whether something is considered "old-fashioned" or not, is completely irrelevant. When composing music, you need to compose in a style that is appropriate to the purpose of the music. You should learn the common practice rules. Then you can decide how and when to use them. These "silly" rules are a good jump-off base even if you decide to do something more avant-garde.

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#1148917 - 07/20/07 02:58 PM Re: Greetings....Writing SATB?
superlocrian Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/30/07
Posts: 69
Loc: Dallas, TX
Ah, the old "rules or no rules" debate. I will add my two cents here (and that's about what it's worth). If the thread goes on I will discuss my personal reasoning for the "why" re: learning the rules. For now I will simply say that I agree with Harmosis. No one has blown any rules right out of the water IMO, and although I honestly do not know much about Steve Reich's music (sorry guys), I would wager that he knows the "rules" of four part writing and would be able to expertly write a piece in that style. The man studied at Julliard after all. He knows what he is doing (and not doing). I would guarantee you that in his early composition training he was taught these things.

I would be interested if he or any modern composers of his stature have stated in a book/article/interview that they feel that beginning compositional students should NOT learn the traditional way (i.e. four part writing rules, counterpoint, etc.)

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#1148918 - 07/23/07 11:04 AM Re: Greetings....Writing SATB?
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2777
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Regarding the "rules" about parallel 5th and octaves. They are an effect. They have a sound that can be an interesting contrast to what our ears are used to. This is especially so about parallel 5ths as octaves simply sound like you've just doubled the part. However, that doesn't mean the taboo has gone away, it hasn't. Therefore if you're going to use the sound of parallel 5ths, use it a lot! In a sense, thumb your nose at the rules. It makes it obvious that your breaking the rules was intentional and not a careless mistake. This might be what Mr. McFadyen meant when he mentioned Steve Reich blowing the rule away. I haven't heard the piece so can't comment on it.

We hear so much parallel harmony (3rds and 6ths) in pop music that if you used a lot of such harmony your piece might sound like a pop song. It might make a nice effect for a small segment of a piece, but to my mind is something to avoid. There is nothing like quality voice leading sung by human voices. So to compose for SATB you should be very confident of your voice leading skill. Listen to the music of Randall Stroope to hear awesome voice leading. I agree with those who suggest that a strong background in theory is essential. Also be cognizant of what parts are foreground and what parts are accompaniment.

To hear really strong choral music let me suggest the link below. This is the organization I work for and these recordings are posted with the permission of the publishers. Now a quick note about the composers.

Eric Whitacre is an up and coming darling of choral music. His music is challenging because he loves divisi. This particular piece divides up to 8 parts, but his music can divide to more than 12 parts. He has many other techniques and for further listening I'd suggest finding his 3 Songs of Faith. They are amazing.
Guido Lopez Gavilan is a Cuban composer. The Afro-Latin rhythms in El Guayaboso are quite challenging.
Caldwell and Ivory are masters of gospel arrangements that ROCK! This one doesn't disappoint.

Here's the link, enjoy!:

http://www.iowayouthchorus.org/announcements.htm

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#1148919 - 07/23/07 03:59 PM Re: Greetings....Writing SATB?
James McFadyen Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/23/06
Posts: 103
Loc: Manchester UK
 Quote:
Originally posted by Steve Chandler:
Regarding the "rules" about parallel 5th and octaves. They are an effect. They have a sound that can be an interesting contrast to what our ears are used to. This is especially so about parallel 5ths as octaves simply sound like you've just doubled the part. However, that doesn't mean the taboo has gone away, it hasn't. Therefore if you're going to use the sound of parallel 5ths, use it a lot! In a sense, thumb your nose at the rules. It makes it obvious that your breaking the rules was intentional and not a careless mistake. This might be what Mr. McFadyen meant when he mentioned Steve Reich blowing the rule away. I haven't heard the piece so can't comment on it.
[/b]
At least one person knew what I meant ;\)
_________________________
James McFadyen
Black & White Editions (c/o Devilish Publishing)
NEW PIANO MUSIC DEALS - http://www.blackandwhiteeditions.com/

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